2017 Resolutions for Writers
1. Write what you know
2. Know the stakes
3. Know when a character isn’t capable of being a protagonist
4. Know when the story is over
Write What You Know
May people mistakenly believe this phrase to mean, “write only what you have personally experienced,” however, that is a gross misrepresentation. It simply means, “write what you know.” If there is something you would like to write about that you don’t currently know, research it first, so you will know.
Know the Stakes
Your character needs a motive for doing what they do and for going along with the plot. However, your character having a motive isn’t quite enough; your audience needs a reason to care if your character will succeed. Or, more importantly, they need to care about what will happen if your character fails. Basically, it can’t just be that something good will happen if your character succeeds, your character’s success should also prevent something bad from happening, and your audience should know what that bad thing is. The stakes don't have to be world-destroying or life-ending, but they do have to be negative and must personally affect your character.
Know When a Character Isn’t Capable of Being a Protagonist
There are characters we all have that we love to death, but, to be honest, are not protagonist material. It’s natural to want to put these much-loved characters at the fore-front of a story, but doing so can actually be detrimental to your writing. There are a few to watch out for.
>A character that cannot develop cannot be a protagonist. Once a character has reached their “end point” in the writers mind, then their time as a protagonist must come to and end as well. There are very few exceptions to this, and they’re almost all mystery novel series. Characters who have completed their run make good advisors for better suited protagonists.
>A character that is better than everyone else, likewise, not fit to be a protagonist. If your character has already bested everyone, then they are more fit to be a side character– a rival or mentor would be best.
>Characters that have reached the point where they are now divine or practically divine are also not fit to be protagonists, with very few exceptions. In settings where there are multiple characters like this, as long as the character doesn’t start out at the top of the heap, may work if your setting adequately explains why so many of them exist. Characters that have reached this status through training may be viable protagonists again in the future if your narrative gives a sufficient amount of time for a rival to emerge. The rival has to best the character early on in order for this to work. For the most part, this type of character is most suited to being a side character that a protagonist would have to track down a plead for assistance or training from.
Know When the Story Is Over
There comes a time when your story must end. The main conflict has been resolved, then ends have been all tied nicely, and the curtains have dropped. But sometimes you don’t want to let go. You love your characters. You love what they’ve done. You don’t want to leave them. However, it must be done. It doesn’t need to be permanent, of course. If everything works out properly (story-wise), and a suitable protagonist is found, there may be sequels and much more, but those will be their own stories.